The Toronto-based firm's study parses discussions and sentiment across seven vehicle segments, as expressed online via blogs, discussion forums and other social media outlets. Winners are based on results last year measuring 200 vehicle attributes such as quality, safety, performance, style and reliability.
The firm says more than half of the awards went to automotive brands that revamped both interior and exterior vehicle features. Nissan and GM brands ranked the highest in two categories, making them new winners in each of their respective segments.
The best compact was the Mitsubishi Lancer. Nissan Titan was the best full-sized pickup truck. Mercury Mariner won for mid-sized SUV; Dodge Grand Caravan for minivan, and Nissan Rogue for sports "tourer." Chevrolet's Malibu was the top mid-sized sedan and Cadillac's CTS was the best entry-luxury car.
Consumers said they liked the Lancer's "aggressive new styling and high performance." This reflects that consumers are ready for a change in the segment from the traditional sales leader--Honda Civic.
Dodge's Grand Caravan got mileage for its new "Swivel 'n Go" seating system and other new convenience features. And despite stiff competition from the Toyota RAV4, the Mercury Mariner took honors in the mid-sized SUV category, as it was lauded by consumers for its interior and exterior styling as well as for its performance and quality.
Nissan's Titan topped Ford F-Series in the pickup truck category.
Ryan Ghaeli, manager of client services at BrandIntel, says the study measures both discussion volume within a vehicle's segment and the quality of the discussion. "Mercury, for example, had a robust combination of reasonable share of discussion and positive sentiment."
Alan Dean, VP/research, says the results are relevant because the Web chatter it measures is the very tide of opinion that new-vehicle shoppers bump up against when they are researching choices online. "So it's a leading indicator of good sales performance," he says.
"The formula's complex, but it penalizes any vehicle that generates negative sentiment. In effect, it takes an extraordinary leap in discussion share to overcome a little weak sentiment."